Thursday, August 25, 2005

Why Do Men Hate Church?

Pastors have been asking that question for years -- without ever blaming their sermons. So does David Murrow in a new book (click above for an uncritical review).

Sure, most of the clergy is male; so are a lot of key lay leaders. Some churches (the Missouri Synod branch of Lutheranism comes to mind) make a big deal about keeping it that way. So at first glance, you might think church was a pretty friendly place for Y-chromosomes.
Feminists have long argued that this is the case.

But at least since the 19th century, churches have been feminine to the point of frilly, at least according to Murrow and a few others. Today, while 5 out of 6 American men consider themselves Christians, only 2 out of those six show up in Sunday worship. Women are a substantial majority -- often 60% -- of many church services. A generation ago, historian
Ann Douglas argued that Victorian culture generally, and especially Victorian Christianity, had been "feminized," and readers seized on the implications for the present. Today, Leon Podles dates the problem to the 12th and 13th centuries, and believes the situation is so exacerbated that "Christianity has become part of the feminine world from which men feel they must distance themselves to attain masculinity."

Despite his foototes, Podles is not afraid of unsubstatiated claims, such as that ministers have the lowest testosterone levels of any male professionals, with movie actors having the highest. (Remind me not to get in a pissing contest with Wallace Shawn.) Nor is he averse to the occasional canard, as that priests aren't, for the most part, "real men." All this seems disturbing until you see the part where he reminisces about a friendly visit with Mother Angelica. That explains a lot, none of it good.

Still, Podles and Murrow may be on to something, at least demographically. And it may even be a problem. On the other hand, it's hard to work up much enthusiasm for the proposed solutions. The "Promise Keepers" movement flamed out pretty fast, because while most guys like arenas, very few want to cry and hug each other in one. Murrow seems to think that because men like to be active instead of passive, we should avoid talking about being saved. But that way lies the
Pelagian heresy in all its many forms.

Don't have the answer here. Not even sure there's a problem. But I'm gonna check with my doctor about that testosterone thing.

No comments: